'Don't crack under pressure', Tag Heuer Advertisement
Signs and Sign Systems
A sign is something that produces meaning (Thwaites et. al. 2002, p. 9) as reflected in the Tag Heuer advertisement. The Tag Heuer advertisement depicts a full-page image of a woman facing the viewer with her hand raised in a fist. The woman has a black lion tattoo on her index finger with the slogan “#Don’t crack under the pressure” written underneath. A watch is shown in the bottom right corner underneath the company logo. Beside the logo is written “LINK LADY,” “#linkyourlives,” and “Cara Delevingne challenges rules. Being free-minded is her motto and like TAG Heuer she defies conventions.” Company details are written in the bottom left corner.
An icon is a sign that mimics an object (Study Guide CMM19 2017, p. 49). The advertisement uses an icon of Cara Delevingne. Delevingne culturally signifies social media, youth culture and beauty, which makes the advertisement relatable to youth culture. Cultural signifiers of social media are used by the text’s use of intertextuality. Intertextuality is “the relation of elements of a text with other texts in the cultural archive and in cultural memory” (Study Guide CMM19 2017, p. 60). For example, hashtags to twitter threads such as “#dontcrackunderthepressure” intertextually refer to Tag Heuer’s advertisement campaigns.
Androgynous fashion is present through Delevingne’s straight hair, minimal makeup, tattoo, and open jacket. Her bare chest is hidden with a dark fade without sexualising it for the male gaze. According to the Study Guide CMM19, the male gaze is a gendered way of seeing that positions men and women as viewing women as objects to look at. quoted words must be placed in quotation marks. It does not present her breasts clearly suggesting androgyny. Only intratextuality links to her name through the anchors, “Cara Delevingne”, “she”, and intertextual connotations with the real Delevingne reveals her gender. The relations of elements in the text to other elements in the same text is named intratextuality (Study Guide CMM19 2017, p. 59). Anchorage “refers to the way an image is ‘anchored’ by words and tries to limit the range of meanings of an image to a single meaning, deflecting other meanings that the image implies” (Study Guide CMM19 2017, p. 37). This shows the advertisement aimed to create ambiguity with the woman’s gender to present intertextual connotations to Delevingne’s gender fluidity.
What is SEMIOTICS? What does SEMIOTICS mean? SEMIOTICS meaning, definition & explanation
She adopts a posture and attitude more commonly found in advertisements depicting males. She stares directly towards the viewer, lips in a firm line tilted up to the right, brows furrowed as if challenging the viewer. But note the limp fist Delevingne’s body language and appearance combine into a syntagm of a strong, spirited and determined person. Essentially, the relations of presence are named syntagms while relations of absence are named paradigms (Study Guide CMM19 2017, p. 29). These cultural signifiers and syntagms are connotations of the wave of women reclaiming their bodies in advertisements and how traditional gender roles are challenged.
Transferring the qualities of a lion onto the watch is an example of a metaphor (Study Guide CMM19 2017, p. 41). The text metaphorically claims that a lion tattoo is like Tag Heuer watches, strong and able to withstand pressure. Connotations of a sign are the “set of possible signifieds” (Thwaites, et. al. p. 60). The connotations of the lion tattoo on the woman’s finger suggest pride, dominance, power which are normally associated with lions. The tattoo itself signifies the act of breaking convention as a syntagm to the statement, “Cara Delevingne challenges rules. Being free-minded is her motto and like TAG Heuer she defies conventions.” This suggests the advertisement is aimed to appeal to youth culture by defying the conventional portrayal of women. The statement also includes metaphoric language since it attributes Delevingne’s attitude to Tag Heuer watches. This metaphor also enables a denotation to be determined. Denotations are connotations that anchor the image to the denotation to remove ambiguity (Study Guide CMM19 2017, p. 48).
Metonym associates things in terms of a common likeness through the logic of part/whole (Study Guide CMM19 2017, p. 44). The “crack” in “don’t crack under the pressure” is a metonym because it refers to glass and how they are known to crack with pressure. The slogan is a syntagm to the glass on the watch to claim it is durable, unlike most glass.
Commutation tests change or interchange different elements of the signifiers in the text to test its paradigmatic value (Study Guide CMM19 2017, p. 33). The signifier of the black lion tattoo on Delevingne’s index finger could be tested by changing the presented animal into a sheep. Be careful. Avoid extreme oppositions What would be retained is the watch being sold, the icon of Delevingne, the anchorage, the ambiguous aspects of Delevingne’s gender and its connotations to gender fluidity. Nonetheless, the sign would lose meaning because it would conflict with the anchor, “Cara Delevingne challenges rules. Being free-minded is her motto and like TAG Heuer she defies conventions,” since sheep normally connotes to conformity, passiveness and those who are easily influenced. Intertextual links to Delevingne’s tattoo and photoshoots she did with lion cubs would be lost. The sign would also make the meaning ambiguous, highlighting how the lion tattoo and its intertextual connection to Delevingne has a certain paradigmatic value.
Another commutation test could be carried out with changing Delevingne’s lips to red. This is a better substitution While intertextuality between the icon of Delevingne and the real Delevingne would still exist, the meaning would be altered. Red lipstick is used to signify femininity and sensuality in advertisements. Intertextual links to Delevingne’s gender fluidity would change be lost since the text would not present her as ambiguous in gender. The bravado created by Delevingne’s direct gaze would become provocative and subjected to the male gaze. This indicates that the paradigmatic value of the colour of Delevingne’s lips is less significant than the black lion tattoo, nonetheless, it does have a certain paradigmatic value.
The gaze is a structured way of seeing that positions the one who looks and the one looked at in a power relation, “a relation based on dominance and subordination” (Study Guide CMM19 2017, p.13). The icon of Delevingne is presented with body language commonly found in advertisements depicting males. She stares directly towards the viewer, lips in a firm line tilted up to the right, green eyes staring hard at the audience, brows furrowed as if challenging the viewer. Delevigne’s body language and appearance combine into a syntagm of a strong, spirited and determined person. Delevingne’s direct gaze presents her as the dominant one in the power relation with the viewer and addressee.
Unlike how women are conventionally presented in advertisements, Delevingne is not subjected to the male gaze. Or is in defiance of it The text avoids this by not sexualising Delevingne. Her chest is exposed with a dark fade in the foreground however the image is not sexualised for the male gaze. It does not present her face with make-up or her breasts, which are signifiers for femininity. Instead, the text focuses on her bravado and her gender ambiguity.
The addressee is “… he or she is positioned in such a way to share his or her presence with another: the person to whom the utterance is addressed” (Study Guide CMM19 2017, p.11). A woman who reads the text is a female wishing to be confident, determined and dominant.
Myth and Ideology
Myth is the way the self-evident way the text tries to present itself (Study Guide CMM19 2017, p.65). The text presents the myth of the New Woman … gender ambiguity, and the rebellious and convention-defying youth. The myths normalise the ambiguity of gender. It also associates social media with youth culture as shown using Twitter hashtags “#linkyourlives.”
Myths are accepted by the reader and create a logical ideology (O’Sullivan et. al. 1994, p. 287). The text presents the ideology of individualism and challenges the ideology of patriarchal gender roles. Individualism is a present ideology in the text where individuals are said to have full autonomy and freedom in their lives (Study Guide CMM19 2017, p.65). The advertisement expresses this through the anchor, “Cara Delevingne challenges rules. Being free-minded is her motto and like TAG Heuer she defies conventions.” This rejects the ideology of collectivism which is the belief as a whole, people should live their lives for the community, nation, or society. The text showcases the ideology of youth culture valuing the defiance of traditional gender roles and rebelliousness.
Patriarchal ideology is where it is understood “the world works best when male interests are served; men and women benefit when women conform to what men want and need” (Study Guide CMM19 2017, p.65). The text challenges this since it does not cater to the male gaze. It also depicts the ideology of gender fluidity where people identify as a mix between female and male stereotypes.
According to the CMM19 Study Guide, “Othering occurs when two terms are set up so that one becomes normal at the expense of the other” (2017, p.41). Othering is used to suggest women who embrace the ideology of the traditional female (typically characterised as a woman who is gentle, empathetic, sensitive, caring, sweet, compassionate, tolerant, nurturing, deferent, and succouring) are not as strong and confident as women who defy gender norms.
Dominant, Negotiated, and Oppositional Readings
A dominant reading of the text is when the reader accepts the interaction between the signs and reads the text with the myth and ideological positioning (Study Guide CMM19 2013, p. 49). Delevingne’s confident and free-minded personality is transferred onto the watch. The anchorage “Cara Delevingne challenges rules. Being free-minded is her motto and like TAG Heuer she defies conventions,” is accepted by the reader and the slogan, “Don’t crack under the pressure” refers to the durability of the watch. This is accepted by the reader, along with the notion Tag Heuer is a luxury brand and owning their watches will equate to being as confident and convention-defying as Delevingne.
A negotiated reading is when the reader “does not completely inhabit the addressee role” and questions the portrayed myths (Thwaites et. al. 2002, p. 92). Reading the text, it could be acknowledged the watch could be durable but buying it does not mean one is strong, convention-defying and as confident as Delevingne. The reader could also question what about the watch makes it strong considering the advertisement focused on Delevingne rather than the features of the watch.
Oppositional readings challenge the myths present in the text and the addressee role is rejected (Thwaites et. al. 2002, p. 92). The reader does not know who Delevingne is not necessarily and recognises buying Tag Heuer watches would not make one confident and rebellious. Othering is used to suggest women who embrace the ideology of the traditional female are not as strong and confident as those who defy gender norms. The oppositional reader would also acknowledge the text excludes older readers, males, and does not represent people of colour.
'Don't crack under pressure', TagHeuer ad, Marie Claire, no.256, December 2016, back cover.
O’Sullivan, Tim et. al. 1994, Key Concepts in Communication and Cultural Studies, 2nd ed. Routledge, London.
Study Guide CMM19 Text and Culture 2017, School of Humanities, Griffith University, Virtual Location.
Thwaites et. al. 2002, Introducing Cultural and Media Studies: A Semiotic Approach, Palgrave, London.